top of page

GOAL:  understand the needs of the contemporary grocery shopper; design a refined experience for store patrons that maximizes positive and empowering embodied patterns of interaction

Embodied Shopping

Fall 2017 - Purdue University

 MY ROLE:  research innovative grocery stores, conduct contextual inquiries and interviews, create AEIOU map, sketch solutions, conduct user testing


Shopping for groceries is a ubiquitous part of our lifestyle, with most families shopping multiple times a week for food and other convenience items. However, grocery stores have been slow to adopt visible technological innovation, relying on traditional notions of travel through the store that maximize patron exposure. These shopping patterns include the “racetrack,” where patrons are forced to walk the entire perimeter of a store to locate the most common goods. These patterns are potentially lucrative for the notoriously low-margin grocery business, yet can leave patrons feeling lost and frustrated. You should center your solution on the interaction between the user and environment, maximizing positive interactions that take advantage of space and place.

















Secondary research centered around why and how people shop, the typical layouts of grocery stores, as well as technological applications to a grocery store space. 




Grocery stores typically follow a clockwise layout, keeping important essentials on the outer edge. Some stores have tried to update the shopping experience with scanning technology to omit lines., like Amazon Go, and some have eliminated the physical space altogether by offering a home delivery service. We also found that more users are interacting with their smartphones while shopping; for example looking for coupons, comparing prices, and looking at lists. This research enabled us to explore the physical shopping spaces in our area.

Primary research involved observations of ourselves and other shoppers at various grocery stores, interviews, and contextual inquiries. 

Inconsistent signage throughout the store, aisle signs and endcap signs, some digital signage 

Item groupings varied between stores, but essentials generally placed on the perimeter

Diverse shopping needs, some grab-and-go shoppers, some bulk shoppers

“I normally walk the same route around the store because I often buy the same products.“

“I often go the self-scan. I don’t want to talk to the cashier, and I usually don't buy much.”

"I don't understand the layout of [Fresh City Market]. I hate wandering around the store."

Five students participated in semi-structured interviews about their shopping habits. We asked about their typical grocery shopping routines, and about any high and low points of their experiences. 

"I thought I knew where the water bottles were, but my grouping doesn't match the store's."

"I want to know where things are. If I am shopping between class,

I want to be fast."

"I come here often, and I still get confused. I don't want to ask a worker for help."

We asked the same five students interviewed to participate in a contextual inquiry. Their task was to find a specific water bottle brand in the store. Participants were observed and timed, and asked to think aloud.





As a group, we scouted out three grocery stores, observing our own patterns walking through the store in search for items, as well as observing other shoppers. 




After gaining insights from primary and secondary research, we arranged our findings into common themes.

Our affinity diagram included insights from our secondary research, interviews, observations, and contextual inquiries. We observed shopping patterns that aligned with our secondary research. Feedback from participants about their frustrations and needs allowed us to understand shoppers, and narrow down our focus to a smaller grocery store next to campus frequented by students. Our affinity diagram exposed some common themes in a typical shopping experience, which informed our personas. Themes included locating items, shopping listsawareness of products, and store choice.


Our personas were developed based on our research, and especially through our observations and contextual inquiries done with Purdue students. 

“I normally walk the same route around the store because I often buy the same products.”


Mitchell has just finished his evening class and after checking the bus times on his phone, he knows he roughly has around 12 minutes from the time of getting to the store, to his bus arriving. He only needs to pick up the essentials such as bread, milk and eggs, but doesn’t want to miss the last bus home.


Visits 2-3 times per week, 10-15 minutes per visit, Grab-n-go shopping

Mitchell Tucker, 21-year-old student


- to get in the store and grab the items

  he needs

- leave the store as quickly as possible

- limited interaction with people

- long checkout lines

- not sure where to find certain items

- does not want to ask store employees

   for help

“I like to pick up the products by myself to ensure the quality.”

Uyanga Byangsha, 18-year-old international student


- wants to quickly find store amenities like 

   carts and checkouts

- quickly locating buying foods that are 

   common back home



- confusing store layout and placement of

   international foods

- does not want to ask store employees

   for help

Uyanga has just finished her first class of the day, and has an hour break until her next class. She wants to get ingredients for the home cooked meal she is making for her new friends who are coming over that night, but will not have the time after her next class. Uyanga heads to the store with a mental list of the items she needs to get, but is under pressure due to her upcoming class.

Visits once per month, Usually visits other stores, Grab-n-go shopping between classes


Our journey map was created with our primary persona, Mitchell, in mind, taking into account needs and concerns expressed by our interview participants. 


We created sketches while body-storming in the grocery store as a group, and also individually, and discussed our direction and focus to decide on a design for testing. 

Initial ideas included a shopping list mobile app integrated with the store layout, digital installations at the entrance and aisles of the store, an audio assistant guiding customers through the store, redesigning carts and baskets, and a light-up floor system designed to help navigation. 


We tested one low-fidelity paper prototype with two participants. They used the app mockup while in the grocery store location. We iterated upon that idea, tested with two more participants in the store, then created mid-fidelity wireframes as our proposed solution. 

First Iteration

Our idea is to have an app that integrates a shopper's recently bought items into a list, allow them to search for items in the store, and lead them to aisles where their groceries are found. Upon entering the store, a user would open the app, tap their phone on a sensor by the entrance, and be assigned a color and shape to look for that would appear on digital signage in the aisles. 

Testing Insights

  • Participant couldn’t understand what “TAP” meant, was tapping the screen

  • Participant could very well understand the “search “ flow

  • Participant couldn’t understand where she was “right now” in the map

  • Paper prototype for a map is not supportive for the changes in the direction

  • Participant could understand the graying out of the path behind her

Second Iteration

Testing Insights

  • Participant couldn’t relate to the welcome screen as there was no set-up in the store for the prototype

  • Participant wasn’t confused much with searching the item, but the carousel was difficult to interpret

  • Participant could understand the direction when the bottom line was read

  • Participant could understand the aisle number in the star and reacted "oh okay the aisle"

  • Participant was confused with the map and how it wasn't exact to the store, aisle numbers did not correspond

  • Participant did not see the star post-it placed in the aisle (our aisle signage prototype), but did find the water with more ease than usability test #1


Our solution on MPS and signage re-design will create an embodied shopping experience for grab-n-go buyers to quickly locate items that they usually don’t shop from a particular market. They can easily grab the map on their phone with a simple tap on the go when they enter the market and either quickly search the item they need or tap the already listed items. Having all “one-tap” interactions, the buyer can easily locate the item on the map and navigate to the particular aisle following the color-n-shape coded markers.

Once navigated, the shopper can easily connect with the signage presenting in the physical space using the same marker and locate the unfamiliar item to shop. The one liner hints of navigation would help them locate the aisle according to their familiarity of the physical space (adding more reference points). Adding to the feature of locating the item required, sales in the store and main physical spaces (like cash counter, restrooms, cart area, etc.) can easily be located without searching.

Onboarding & Main Screen

  • Tapping the phone on the system in the market will automatically open the map of the shop

  • Flexible UI in terms of color to be user-specific

  • Gives overview of the whole market and main sections like restrooms, cart center, cashier, cafe, etc

  • Can search for specific items and common items are already listed

  • Assigning a specific marker to the user

Adding Items

  • The user can search items by categories or keywords

  • Any number of items can be added before tapping “DONE”

  • When tapping “DONE” on the search screen, the item(s) will be located in the map with navigation path

Navigation to Items

  • Items added by the user will be highlighted  in the carousel and shown as a assigned colored symbol in the map

  • A real-time navigation map which can locate the user’s location and path

  • Detailed product information and shelf image of a product when tapped on the marker

  • The user can browse what products are on sale in the store

  • The user can show or hide this mode according to their preference

Highlighting Store Sales

  • The marker on the phone is reflected on the store signage for the users to locate themselves in the physical space

  • The markers are both color and shape coded

Aisle Signage

bottom of page